Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Sprinkler Systems and Home Improvement

My friend Brian Reilly has just been crowing about his home improvement project, and mentioned that the rise in do it yourself projects has been a real boon to contractors, who get to come in and clean up the mess afterwards. Yes, I'm sure that this really does work that way. A friend of mine who lived in England for a year tells me that home improvement is commonly called DIY (for "Do It Yourself") over there, but that most Britons assert that DIY really means, "Disaster Is Yours."

So here's my little tip about sprinklers. I was smart enough to know that I shouldn't do this myself. We asked for several bids from sprinkler contractors. Based on recommendations we received, we picked one guy. Perhaps I shouldn't have expressed my concern about the danger of dry spots caused by insufficient coverage, because what he put in may qualify for the world's most redundant sprinkler system. In some areas, there are at least three different sprinklers watering a particular patch, and with our soil, this means swamp, not grass.

Okay, a good friend of ours is a specialist in hard wood flooring dispute resolution. He walks in and says, "You've got moisture under this floor." It's a brand new house, still under warranty, so we call the builder. He looks under there, and tells us the sprinklers are too close to the house. "They should be at least 18 inches from the foundation."

I call the sprinkler contractor, a salty down home sort of guy, and he responds with a statement that civilized norms of behavior prevent me from repeating. (Of course, if I were on cable TV, or a college student, this wouldn't be a problem.) I can't find anything anywhere that says that sprinklers must be at least 18 inches from the foundation, but we pay the sprinkler contgractor to come out and move the heads, and hope that our flooring problem won't get bad enough to require us to pull up the floor.

Of course, this doesn't solve the problem of the triple redundant sprinklers drenching the soil. (But hey, our duck loves it.) The real solution is that the Rainbird T-Bird heads can accept several different nozzles. What came in them were 3.0 nozzles (probably indicates a volume of water). The local sprinkler supply store gives me (yes, doesn't sell) a huge bag of replacement nozzles: 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0. So I went around and replaced several of the 3.0 nozzles with ones that squirt far less water, and dramatically reduced the amount of time that the circuit with the T-Birds on it runs.

Finally, I don't think we graded the yard adequately before the sprinkler contractor came out. Yes, we are partly at fault. We are also a little frustrated that the contractor didn't recognize that we needed a bit less slope to our soil.

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